When I met her, we could not stop talking; we see the world in the same way.
— Vivian Howard, A Chef’s Life, S3E7, “A Casserole Says Plenty”
What a treat it is when you find someone else who sees the world in a way that is very similar, very complimentary to the way you see it.
This is why, of course, people travel across the country to meetings of people who have the same focus as they do. If you are a ventriloquist, for example, you want to go to the Vent Haven convention in Kentucky so you can spend time with other people who are also immersed in those same interests,
As for me, though, that kind of treat has not been easy for me to find. I don’t know many other people who see the world in the way that I do, people who I connect with in almost an intuitive way.
My path hasn’t been towards the interests of other humans, rather it has, of necessity, been towards the challenges that I face in the world. My issues have never been the costs of fitting in, rather they have always been about standing out and proud, the profound challenges of being yourself in the world.
For people who want to become more a part of a community, connecting with others rather than connecting with their unique creation, my voice is very much something that they don’t want to feel affinity with. While people may need a bit of what I offer, claiming some wild independence, they certainly don’t want to go as far off the beaten path as I have become.
Number 5 in my 2002 statement is: The most painful thing about trans is not being able to give your gifts and have them accepted.
When you share with someone who already shares your vision, they understand the value and the price of what you bring to the relationship.
When you share with someone who doesn’t get the joke, the delight, the point, they just stare at you like you are making garbage noises. If you are lucky, they look at you with sweet indulgence, but if you are not, they look at you as if you are just cracked.
It even happens that sometimes, people just enjoy the poetry of your language, your performance of self without actually engaging any of the content you are sharing. They strip the meaning from your words, reading it as nonsense, and apply their own meaning to your message, earnestly believing that this means they are actually engaged, listening to you in a kind and compassionate way.
By mapping to their vision, they believe they have achieved a shared vision with you when all they did is erase your vision and replace it with their own comfortable and convenient assumptions.
My sister sent me to her acupuncturist, for example. He was surprised at how “compelling” the writing was on my website. However, when we had our first visit, he refused to do any acupuncture until I bought into his belief system. At the end of a hour of arguing with me, he looked at his pad and saw he had written absolutely no notes about what I had shared with him.
“Look at this!” he boomed. “A blank page! What a great place to start next time!” Needless to say, there was no next time. Even the chiropractor she recently dragged me to found me smart and fascinating, although “not ready” to sign up for his belief system.
It is difficult for me to be seen as a curiosity, something to be studied but not to be engaged. My own queer approach to the world leads me to understand that I can learn from everyone if I stay present in the relationship rather than trying to get them into my current belief system.
It’s amazing how many times I end up going back to that 2002 document and finding the same challenges, the ones that leave me lonely and lost. I need sharing, starting with shared vision, but I get challenges to engage others needs and beliefs without them being able to engage mine.
When Chef Vivian finds connection, I am very happy for her She lives in community, people sharing a story they all understand. It also reminds me that I live in a basement, struggling to find anyone who understands and engages parts of my story.
I find it hard to recall the last time I was with someone who saw the world in the same way that I do. Very hard.